Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Latest U.N. Security Council meetings fail to make progress on Kosovo

The UN Security Council met yesterday.  As expected, they failed to come to a conclusion on the status of Kosovo, or what steps might be taken next.  The US and EU seem to be supporting unilateral independence while Russia, and Serbia naturally, oppose it.

UNITED NATIONS: The U.N. Security Council failed to bridge deep divisions over the future of Kosovo on Wednesday and Western countries said they would take the lead in steering the province to independence from Serbia. With Western backing, Kosovo's 90 percent Albanian majority is preparing to declare independence within weeks, setting up a showdown with Serbia and its big power backer Russia. "The potential for a negotiated solution is now exhausted," a joint statement by the EU ambassadors on the council and the United States said.

via International Herald Tribune

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Negotiations Failed...what next?

From Interfax

The final round of the Kosovo status talks turned out to be a failure, EU representative in the troika of international mediators Wolfgang Ischinger said.

"Unfortunately, the parties failed to reach an agreement on the status of Kosovo. We, as the troika of mediators, believe that the attitude of the parties is positive," Ischinger told a news conference in Vienna broadcast by the Vesti-24 TV channel on Wednesday.

Today marked the failure of the last series of negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia to resolve the "province's" status.  So what happens next?

Serbia has some options.  Reuters is reporting:

Serbia could apply hardball tactics if Kosovo declares independence, making life harder, more expensive and frustrating for the landlocked province's 2 million people.

Talks between Belgrade and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority ended . . . and Serbia is drawing up an "action plan" for the period after Dec. 10, when mediators submit their conclusions to the United Nations.

As a state, it can continue to bring political power to bear.  It can also bring economic, military or para-military pressure to bear.

Its political options seem fairly limited.  Russia will only go so far to back up it's Slavic cousin.  I've stated before that Russia is only using Kosovo as a card in its larger game of missile defense and Iranian relations.  Other traditional allies, like Greece, have also moderated their position.  Last week the Greek foreign minister declared unilateral independence "inadequate," a softening from their previous tougher language.  It seems that the EU and the US hold most of the political cards.

Economically, Serbia has already threatened to impose a trade and energy blockade of Kosovo.  ECIKS is reporting that while these threats have been made, they would cause only short-term problems as neighboring countries pick up the slack.  I'm not so sure, as I watch food prices continue to climb.

No one seems to think that Serbia will play a military card.  Again from Reuters,  "Serbian Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac has repeatedly said there will be no military reaction. But Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica refuses to discuss other plans for what his deputy calls "the blackest scenario".

But Serbia has a long history of using paramilitary proxies to fight on its behalf.  Much of the early violence done in Bosnia and Croatia was done by paramilitaries, sent at the behest of the government in Belgrade.  This was also the case in Kosovo.  The Tsar Lazar guard has already stated, a number of times, that it will go to war for Kosovo.  I've mentioned them here and here.

Guard leader, Hadzi Andrej Milic, has already claimed, "that the members of the Guard would gather on November 28 at Merdare, the administrative border crossing to Kosovo, to set up their “headquarters”.  Another source says, "According to Milic, the organization had at least 5,000 members in every municipality in Serbia and possessed weapons that “can launch rockets at Pristina from 80-km distance.”

While everyone here is longing for independence, I think things are going to get worse before they get better.  Even if the only Serbian reaction to unilateral independence is a half-hearted trade embargo, food and energy prices are likely continue their climb. 

Happy Flag Day Everyone

I haven't been posting much here lately.  I'm kind of in a writing slump when it comes to ministry news here.  It's not that there's nothing happening...far from it...I'm just not always quite sure how to write about it.

But at a very minimum, I want to write and wish everyone a happy "Ditë e Flamurit"...happy Flag Day.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Kosovo's 2nd Mobile phone provider goes live

Late last week Kosovo's second mobile operator went live with a test call from their base station in Prishtina.  The second operator, a consortium made up of IPKO Net, Telecom Slovenia and Mobitel, has committed to begin operations (on some level) before the end of the year.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

You've got to be kidding!! is reporting the US Department of State is considering a 12-year moratorium on Kosovo's status, according to "unnamed State Department official".  

Yeah, right.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Happy Birthday to my daughter

My five-year-old turned six today!  Here's the 46 kindergartners in her class partying.

Reilly's Birthday 07_41

A good time was had by all....I think :)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Tentative good news about the Kosovar economy

According to an ECIKS report, the extensive economic reforms which began in 1999 are finally showing measurable and sustainable results.  Here are some highlights:

  • Kosovo’s GDP is estimated to have grown by about 3% in 2006
  • After a fall in 2005, Kosovo’s exports grew remarkably in 2006 by 54%, with a modest growth of imports by 5%.
  • the rate of non-housing private investment grew impressively by 61% and lending to the private sector also increased.
  • The rate of inflation stood near zero, in spite of accelerating economic activity.
  • Government spending was kept within the prescribed and sustainable levels, in line with a Letter of Intent, which the Government of Kosovo signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2005

This is pretty good news, though largely invisible to the average Fatmir on the street.  In fact, most would dispute the inflation statistic as the price of food is sky-rocketing.  Prices of essentials like oil, flour and milk have increased by 70-80 percent!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Overcoming cultural biases

Below is an interesting video documentary.  It shows the experiences of ten students from Kosovo and Serbia who live together in Prishtina.  Both groups share their ingrained biases about the other (hygene, family size, etc.) and work to overcome them.

It's interesting because it shows the deep-seated prejudices that exists, few of which are based in reality.

via FreeKosova

Friday, October 12, 2007

Why Serbia can't let Kosovo go

Great article in Christian Science Monitor about the Serbian physiology behind the Kosovo question.  It doesn't offer any solution, but is a very short primer on the issue for folks who want it boiled down.


Why Kosovo is central to Serb national epic

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Good video intro Kosovo

A Canadian Broadcast Company journalists travels back to Kosovo to revisit a doctor she had met during the war.  This is a good introduction to Kosovo for those unfamiliar with its recent history and present aspirations.  It's a little over eleven minutes long.

It's fun to see clinic and restaurants I've been to and eaten at!

via FreeKosova

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bomb goes off in Prishtina: two killed

Both the AFP & BBC are reporting on an explosion early this morning in Prishtina, Kosovo's capital.  Two people were killed, one immediately and the other from their wounds.  At least ten others were wounded.  VOA is reporting that the explosion occurred on Bill Clinton Boulevard, a major street in the capital. 

This bombing reminds me of one that happened in 2003 (?) which also occurred on Bill Clinton Blvd.  That one happened much earlier in the evening, around 10 PM and was easily heard at our home in Prishtina.

No details on the type of explosive or the motive are yet known.  The previous bombing on this road was "business," not politics.  I'm speculating, but I'm guessing that this is "business" as well.  In the past, most of the politically motivated bombings have targeted UN facilities in another part of town. 

The things kids say....

As I've mentioned before, our kids are in an unusual learning situation.  Both are in local school, but both also spend several hours each day in 'home schooling."  That's a big load, not only for them but also for my wife, who teaches "mommy's school."

But the struggles are broken up into fits of laughter too.  This week my wife was working with your kindergartner on the alphabet, specifically the letter "f".  Reilly, my daughter, was trying to come up with all the words she could think of that started with the "f' sound.  "F..f..f..foot," she said.  My wife clapped, "great!" And so Reilly went on, naming a number of other items until she came to, "F..f..f..fecal contamination!" 

My wife nearly hurt herself laughing.  The things kids say.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

You know you're back in Kosovo when...

Both our kids are students in the local school system.  We're now in the second week of the school year.  My youngest daughter is in Kindergarten, the oldest in 3rd grade.

Yesterday my oldest came home with a note written in her assignment notebook: Beginning tomorrow school would start at 1:50 instead of 3:35.   That's right, tomorrow come to school two hours earlier.

You know you're in Kosovo when your recently settled family schedule is up-ended by a brief note from school.  Of course, schedule changes aren't unique to Kosovo...its just one of those things.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Russia Draws a Red Line in Kosovo

 This comes unsourced from Strategy Page, but seems consistent with what I've read else where.

September 3, 2007: The Russian government said that Kosovo is one of Russia's two "red line" issues in Europe. The Russian foreign ministry defined "red line" as an issue where Russian national security or the world order is threatened. Moscow also considers the U.S.-NATO European missile-defense shield to be a "red line" issue. Would Russia really go to war over Kosovo on Serbia's behalf? No, but it would veto a UN resolution, and this rhetoric is designed to have a major political effect. Russia's bellicose language echoes a Serbian statement in late August when the Serbian government said that if Kosovo declares "unilateral independence", Serbia would "inflict some damage in return." The Serbian statement did not indicate what kind of "damage" it would seek to inflict.

This seems to reflect what I've been saying for a while.  There is linkage in the Russian foreign policy between the Kosovo issue and the US-NATO missile defense system.

The Russians do not appear to be giving any ground on this issue.  They've been resolute, as has been the Serbian government, that they are not willing to flex on the issue of independence in Kosovo.

Balkans: Russia Draws a Red Line in Kosovo

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The silly challenges of transition

Occasionally the differences between life here and back in the US escape me and help me waste all kinds of time.  Yesterday for example, I spent my morning renewing my vehicle registration...or trying to.

The local government recently created a new vehicle registration regulation which requires that people produce proof that they don't have a debt with the electric company.  Having learned that, I walked down to my local electric company office.  I got a recent statement of account and then waited in line to have my account validated.  The man was helpful and friendly, filling out the required forms before the all-important stamping which would tell the vehicle registration folks that I was debt free.

Then I walked back home and later took our vehicle down to the inspection station.  As in most of Europe and the US, vehicle are subjected to an annual inspection.  Good enough.  They guys did the inspection as I waited patiently out front.

About twenty minutes later the service man came in with a quizzical look on his face.  "Ah, you have another month to go on your can't renew your registration yet," he said, pointing at my vehicle registration document.

"What do you mean?" I said, peering at the date, which clearly said 9/10/2007.  I had carefully read the registration and insurance documents.  They expired on Sept 10th....or did they?

"It's not due until October...nearly a month away," he explained patiently.

Oh crud, I said to myself.  Of course, the European date system goes Day/Month/Year, not Month/Day/Year.  I had, in fact, come a month early, misreading the date in US format, not European format.  So I sheepishly left, thanking them for their help.  They graciously invited me back next month and didn't charge me for their time.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The suddenly rare pleasures

We're enjoying being back in Kosovo.  The last two weeks have been full of new discoveries, renewed relationships and growing vision for what God wants to do here.  It's also become a time to re-learn where pleasure comes from. 

Pleasure comes from the distance between the ordinary and the unexpected and serendipitous.  Pleasure doesn't come from the having of a lot of stuff...or even always having "necessities" like water and electricity.  Pleasure comes when moments of unexpected happiness intrude on the ordinary.

For example, our water goes off for 24 hours, two days per week.  It's not a big deal and one adjusts pretty quickly.  This morning I went out for my run assuming the water would be off by the time I got back.  I got back in time, though and started running the water to bathe. 

Now, understand that thus far "bathing" has consisted of climbing in the bath tub and sticking my head and various body parts under a weak stream of mostly cold water, requiring contortions that would impress a circus performer.

Today, for reasons unknown, I had water, water pressure and HOT WATER.  I sat in my tub and experienced the simple pleasure of gallons of spraying hot water.  WOW.  That was my first hot shower since our return.  THAT is pleasure.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Back in Kosovo

We're finally back in Kosovo after a thirteen month absence.  It's amazing how much changes in a year! 

Yesterday we got our Internet service set up and I was surprised at how simple the process was.  I went to a local reseller and filled out a form.  They gave me a window of time during which the installers would come.  The following day they came, only a half hour after the window they gave.  They set us up and now we have a 2MB connection for about $33 per month.  That's pretty cheap compared to US prices.

Another thing that's changed since we left is the water situation.  Because of the amazing lack of rain over the last year, and the even more amazing lack of snow over the winter, there is a severe drought in Kosovo right now.  Water rationing is in effect and our water is out for 24 hour periods.  Supposedly our neighborhood loses water for 24 hours (roughly) twice a week.  We're grateful however, for how "good" our water is.  Our landlord's sister went 23 straight days without water!  None the less, it's a bit challenging to bathe when it's in the nineties, flush the toilets and wash clothes.

But God's doing good things.  Last night I had the great joy of attending our Bible Study and saw some of my good Albanian friends for the first time.  I also met four people at the study whom I'd never met.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Once we point to the transcendent, now we point to our loss.

Wired Magazine has an interesting write up on the new stained-glass windows at Germany's Cologne Cathedral. 

Blood-spurting martyrs, biblical parables, ascendant doves — most church windows feature the same preachy images that have awed parishioners for centuries. But a new stained-glass window in Germany's Cologne Cathedral, to be completed in August, evokes technology and science, not religion and the divine.

Stained glass windows used to present biblical narratives and church lessons to help instruct the illiterate and remind people of God.  Now, in Germany, they're being used to point people to technology.

Where once they pointed people to transcendent, eternal realities, now they point people to time-based technologies that may be obsolete before the glass is even completed.  It's pretty sad, but this has always been humanity's tendency: to replace the Creator with the Created.  One might hope, however, that it is not the church that is leading the way.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

US & EU withdraw Security Council Resolution

The media is reporting today that the US and the EU have withdrawn their UN resolution on Kosovo after a third round of negotiations with Russia failed to produce any results.  In response, Kosovo Prime Minister, Agim Çeku, has announced that Kosovo will declare independence on November 28th.

Thus far, it appears that the Kosovar government would follow the Ahtisaari plan following an independence declaration.

Kosovo's government would invite Nato's peacekeeping troops to stay and ask the EU to implement a supervisory mission – as proposed by Mr Ahtisaari – over a four-month transition period to take the place of the UN protectorate. But doubts remain about the resolve of the EU to step into the role without a UN resolution.

A real question will be whether American and European leaders have the political will to do something or whether they'll allow the present boondoggle to continue.

Read more here and here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Russia rejects latest UN resolution

The saga at the UN continues to churn on, consuming a lot of energy and producing very little tangible progress.  Yesterday Russia rejected the latest UN resolution which would have called for four months of intensive discussion between the governments of Prishtina and Belgrade.

The US and EU sponsors of the resolution called this latest draft the "final attempt" to reach an agreement with Moscow.  More from the Charlotte Observer:

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Friday that a Russian veto "will not stop the situation from moving forward in Kosovo, but it will be outside the Security Council framework, which is not what we want, and it's not the desirable way to go forward."

But he also said: "We are determined to move forward either within the council or otherwise."

It's my contention that Russia continues to use the situation in the Balkans as a bargaining chip in the US-Russia missile defense talks.  Last week Russia raised the stakes by unilaterally withdrawing  from the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, citing security concerns related to eastern NATO expansion and the US missile shield program (more here).

Friday, July 06, 2007

On Kosovo the EU is a sickening lack of will

My silence on the status of talks over Kosovo over recent weeks is merely a reflection of the lack of progress.  The following is a great excerpt from The Guardian.

If proof were required that Europe, with or without the prospective new high representative, still finds it almost impossible to have a united foreign policy, take the first crisis to return to the agenda since the Brussels summit - Kosovo. Here is a major European issue on which the union's members are split several ways, though they share a sickening failure of will.

Until last year, Europe's Kosovo policy was a lowest common denominator of playing for time. The issue was handed to former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari to craft a solution after talking to all sides. When he came up early this year with a call for the territory to have qualified independence, European leaders responded with a demand for one more round of talks. Then, at last month's G8 summit, the brash new French president stunned everyone with a weak-nerved call for between four and six more months of delay and yet more talks. He had not even consulted his own foreign ministry, let alone his European G8 partners. But once the demand was public, they rallied in support.

Instead of leadership, the EU then left things to Washington, in the hope that at his meeting in Maine on Monday, George Bush could persuade Russia's president Vladimir Putin not to veto a UN resolution giving Kosovo independence. Bush seems to have got nowhere. But, unlike Europe, the Americans have been crafting a plan B. They are considering the idea of encouraging the Kosovo Albanians to declare independence unilaterally with the promise that Washington will recognise the new state.

The paradox of Iraq is back again, in a reverse form from 2003 but one that is just as depressing. When Washington did the wrong thing by invading Iraq, too many European states said yes. Now, when Washington is thinking of doing the right thing over Kosovo, too much of Europe is saying no.

Eight years after Belgrade was forcibly stopped from driving the Albanians out of Kosovo, it is time to recognise that Serbian politicians will never agree to abandon the territory formally. They know Kosovo is lost but cannot say so. A unilateral declaration of independence by the Albanian majority is not ideal, but it is a solution. Further talks with no deadline will lead to greater impatience in Kosovo, a sense of betrayal, and the risk of violence - an outcome which only Belgrade wants. Collectively or individually, European governments must tell Washington and Kosovo's leaders that they too accept the territory's hour has come [emphasis added].

The process seems to have ground to a halt.

via SEEO

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cool heads prevailed

Today's celebration of St. Vitius day, the 618th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, was apparently violence free.  We praise God for that.   Yesterday I wrote that the Tsar Lazar Guards, a volunteer Serbian paramilitary unit had announced its forthcoming visit to commerate the battle.

Yesterday UNMIK spokesmen had announced:

The SRSG intends to issue an Executive Decision in the course of today prohibiting the
Guard or any similar paramilitary group from carrying out any activities in Kosovo, such
as the wearing of uniforms, or inciting ethnic hatred or violence.
Any presence by the Guard in Kosovo will be considered a breach of UNSCR 1244 and a
threat to civil law and order. Police have full powers to take whatever steps required to
maintain law and order, and the SRSG will provide clear guidance to the Police
Commissioner on this issue.

According to Reuters hundreds of people traveled from the site of the battle to the church and monastery in Gracanica to remember the battle.  They arrived by bus, having been escorted by local police.

They later reported that they day ended without clashes and the,  "in a show of strength and a nod to the territory's de facto independence, the bulk of the extensive security operation was handed to Kosovo Albanian police."

Thanks for your prayers!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Please pray for cool heads to prevail tomorrow, June 28th.

BIRN  is reporting that the the St.Tsar Lazar Guard I mentioned here is on its way to visit Kosovo tomorrow.

26 06 2007  Pristina _ The Kosovo police have taken pre-emptive measures to stop trouble from occurring in the event of a visit by the so-called Guard of Tsar Lazar.

The newly formed hardline Serbian nationalist group has proclaimed its readiness to keep Kosovo Serbian if necessary by fighting.

The Guard has announced a forthcoming visit on 28 June, the anniversary of the Kosovo Battle of 1389, to Gazimestan, near Pristina, the site of the battle.

On Sunday, the Kosovo Police Service, KPS, arrested several persons in northern town of Vushtrri / Vucitrn, for delivering flyers put out by a militant group, the Albanian National Army, AKSH, warning of reprisals.

“The AKSH is here, we will wait for you with bullets,” the AKSH message in the flyers read.

This could very, very easily turn ugly.   Prince Lazar was the Serbian monarch who faced the Ottoman Turkish army outside Kosovo on June 28th, 1389.  The Serbian forces were crushed, and it became the most memorable battle in Serbian history.

This is a highly provocative move, especially given the status of negotiations before the UNSC.  Please be praying that cool heads prevail tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Scripture Memorization -- Part II

On Saturday I finished my 100 day wrap-up on 1 John.  Since I wrote about this back in December, I thought it would be good to give a summary of my experience.

Back in December  I shared a methodology from Dr. Andrew Davis that is particularly helpful in memorizing long selections of Scripture.  In summary, the methodology involves learning one verse a day and then repeating/reviewing the aggregate each day throughout the book or selection.  When the selection is memorized you recite the whole each day for 100 days. 

In summary, this whole deal is awesome.  I am such a believer in memorizing large sections of Scripture rather than bits and pieces.  It's phenomenal to get your mind around a whole book.  It's rewarding to be listening to a sermon, or reading a book where one of your newly memorized verses is referenced.  Let me make four summary statements: 

1. It is long and slow.  Both of these words have negative connotations in our society.  When I posted about this in December I had already been memorizing for a couple of months.  That means from start to finish it took 8-9 months to memorize to memorize a small, five-chapter book.  Yikes!  That doesn't appeal to my desire for microwave spirituality.

But this "long-ness" and "slow-ness" is an upside.  You don't have to burn out doing it.  You don't forget everything you've memorized half-way in.  It becomes a daily discipline that I could do long-term.  While there were many days when I just wanted to hurry up and finish the book, the slow pacing of the process is a spiritual discipline in itself.  It is the discipline of "slowing."

2. It's thorough.  Using this methodology ensures I've read, memorized, chewed on, pondered and reflected on each verse dozens and dozens of times (or hundreds, in the case of the early verses).  While I still make mistakes and have mental blocks, I generally know this book word-for-word.  For a guy with a mind like a steel sieve (where everything falls out) this is great.

3. It gets the Scripture down deep. While memorizing a book word-for-word has obvious intrinsic value on its own it's not an end in itself.  More than just memorizing, I feel like I understand  this book better.  I have been seriously impacted by the message of the book.  I've recited over and over, "do not love the world or anything in the world..." several hundred times.  That has affected me.  Even when my I'm sitting in traffic or washing the dishes, my mind goes to these verses and goes through them almost naturally.

4. Other Scripture seems to stay put better. This is purely anecdotal and non-empirical, but having disciplined myself to study this book it seems other Scriptures stay in my mind better . 

If you're interested in memorizing longer passages of Scripture give this a try!  You won't be disappointed...even if you're not a good "memorizer" like myself.


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Monday, June 25, 2007

Serbian--US ties worsening over Kosovo

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica is warning that US-Serbian ties are worsening as a result of the US's pro-independence position regarding Kosovo.   While many Americans might say, "ah... so what," we ask that you'd be in prayer that a relatively just solution could be found for the final status of Kosovo.

Many of us travel through Serbia regularly and the Joshua Project lists the Serbian people as .19 percent evangelical Christian.  Though some are finding true faith in the Orthodox church, Serbia remains a country desperately in need of the Gospel.

Please keep praying for Kosovo!

The CMA: Where are we today?

Photo_062007_001 I've been thinking a lot about the Christian & Missionary Alliance lately.  I've been working on another blog post since the end of Council that I still haven't posted.  But in essence, I'm longing to return to our roots as a denomination; I'm longing to return to our roots in my own personal life. 

Last week I was out for a run and snapped this picture in front of a church as I ran by.  The signs were advertising some special "Healing and Wholeness" services. Years ago, "back in the day" these are the kind of signs we would have seen outside Alliance churches (or branches).  But that sign wasn't outside of my own church; I found this sign outside of Saint Andrews Presbyterian Church.  On their website they explain:

On the last Sunday of each month, we offer a Healing and Wholeness Service in our Sanctuary after our 11:00am worship service (usually around 12:15pm). This unique service offers a time of great spirit and grace. We invite you to come and be prayed for by Saint Andrews' pastor and our prayer team or you may ask for prayers for others who are prominent in your heart and mind.

This sounds like the "after-service" meetings that used to happen in Alliance churches.  This isn't a criticism of my own church or even of the contemporary CMA.  It's actually a reflection of the growing longing of my own spiritual life.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Russia Rejects U.N. Resolution on Kosovo

I know some of you are following this UNSC discussions regarding Kosovo.  Here's the latest I have.

Russia immediately rejected a revised U.N. resolution introduced Wednesday that would delay internationally supervised independence for Kosovo to give the province's majority ethnic Albanians and minority Serbs more time to agree on its future status.

The new text, drafted by European Union nations and the United States, would give the two sides four months to reach an agreement. It states that the resolution's provisions, which lead to full independence, will take effect after 120 days "unless the Security Council expressly decides otherwise after conducting an evaluation."

via Newsvine

Thursday, June 14, 2007

How Americans love Albania!


On the heels of much pro-American ballyhoo, I just had to repost this, direct from Bytycci, my most frequently-read Albanian blog.  Everyone please plant tongues firmly in cheek.

Via South East Europe Online

Still no Kosovo solution in UN Security Council

According to German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, we will not hear anything from the UNSC on the Kosovo resolution until July 1st at the earlier

From B92:

“The job of finding a solution for Kosovo’s status is not over, but we still hope that the new status will be based on the plan of UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at a meeting of the European Parliament's Foreign Political Committee, which was closed to the public.
“It is now completely clear that we have nothing to expect until July 1. The main reason for this scenario is the trip of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the U.S. Even the Americans want to wait to see what the outcome of this trip will be,” Steinmeier said, according to daily Večernje Novosti.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

No bodies found at suspected mass grave near Kosovo, judge says

Got a comment from Bg anon today which reminded me of this.  I meant to follow up on the earlier post.  Thanks Bg! 

No bodies found at suspected mass grave near Kosovo, judge says

Say what you want

Pictured below is reported to be a 12-year-old Kosovar who traveled to Tirana to see Bush.

If you're interested, there is a contest to caption the photo here (in Albanian).  The suggestions are interesting (confession: I can't understand them all). 

via Free Kosova

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bush visits Albania, meets regional leaders

President Bush made a seven-hour stop in the Albanian capital of Tirana today.  It's the first time that an American President has ever visited the Balkan nation. 

In an article, Bush is quoted as saying:

"I want to make sure the Albanian people understand that America knows that you exist and that you're making difficult choices to cement your free society," Bush said in a pre-trip interview. "I'm coming as a lover of liberty to a land where people are realizing the benefits of liberty."

Among topics of discussion are future NATO and EU enlargement, greetings for Albanian troop who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan an lunch with regional Prime Ministers.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Every daddy's prayer

It was one of those one-in-a-lifetime moments.  It's a moment every Christian parent hopes and prays for.  It's the moment when your child, without manipulation, without coercion, decides of their own will to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ.  This morning my five-year-old daughter made that decision. 

devobookFor several months I've been doing morning devotions with my  two little girls out of the book "Training Hearts, Teaching Minds."  It's based on the shorter catechism and brings to our breakfast table the truths of the faith at a level that honestly teaches all of us.

We've read about "the chief end of man," God, the Scriptures and, over the last couple of weeks, sin.  Now, sin has fallen out of favor in recent days, but fortunately those old English and Scottish divines from the 1640's , those who  framed the WSC knew how to talk about it.

Somehow, by God's grace, after all these months, something clicked in my daughter's heart and mind this morning.  My older daughter, who vividly remembers the moment her grandmother "led her to Christ" had the great privilege of leading her sister to Christ (with a little coaching from dad).

My older daughter vividly remembers sitting in the airport five years ago waiting to depart for Kosovo.  My mom was with her as we wrestled with the ticket agents trying to get all of our junk checked into the airline.  Off to the side, my mother prayed with my then three-year-old to invite Jesus to take control of her life. 

Since then we've often wondered if a kid that age is able to make that kind of decision.  Normally, I would say probably not.  And yet she has demonstrated "fruit in keeping with repentance."  This morning my understanding was again challenged as 8-year-old Madison related how, when she was three, her "mimi" had prayed with her in the airport before leaving for Kosovo.

As my oldest talked to my youngest I thought, "oh man...this is happening so fast!  I want her to remember this day!"  As I've been privileged by God to lead others to Christ I've often had them write the date and time of their conversion in their Bibles.  But Reilly is 5, the Bible she has isn't going be used for's mostly pictures.  So I did what any dorky dad would do.  I grabbed my camera phone and surreptitiously videoed the my oldest praying with my youngest.

 Within the hour I'd posted it up to my YouTube account where it won't get lost.  I haven't posted the video here because it's a private, family moment.  But it's a moment none of us will ever be able to forget.

Thank you Father, for redeeming another of your children.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Serbia excavates possible mass grave of more than 350 Kosovo Albanians

Yesterday I wrote about the suicide rate in Kosovo.  Stories like this are part of the reason.  Another possible mass grave has been discovered right on the Serbia-Kosovo administrative border.  The grave is believed to contain as many as 350 Albanians taken during the war.

  The trauma of war is not something a population can get over when  bodies keep turning up in mass graves.  According to the article:

Since 2000, about 800 bodies have been discovered in two mass graves in Serbia in what appeared to be the former regime's attempt to cover up its atrocities during the Kosovo war.

Of course, this goes for the Serbian Kosovar population too.  They too live with great uncertainty and a history of trauma.  While most of the mass graves discovered have contained Albanians, some (one older example) have contained Serbian people too, though not nearly has frequently or filled with as many dead.

Pray for peace in this place!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

ICG: No good alternatives

As the UN Security Counsel continues to debate the "Ahtisaari Plan" for nominally granting Kosovo's independence, few attractive alternatives have immerged.

This is essentially the message of the International Crisis Group's latest report:

The debate on Kosovo’s future status has reached a crucial point. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has begun to consider elements of a draft resolution to determine the entity’s future, which could be put to a vote in the coming weeks. The best way of ensuring regional peace and stability and lifting Kosovo out of an eight-year-long limbo, with a tired, temporary UN administration and an undeveloped, low-growth economy, is a resolution based squarely on the plan of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari. This would supersede UNSC Resolution 1244 (1999), define Kosovo’s internal settlement and minority-protection mechanisms, mandate a new international presence and allow for supervised independence.

This is the problem with real world problems.  There are never any perfect solutions.  Unfortunately, those in power have to weigh the options and finally make decisions that have real effects on real people.  But the clock is ticking on people's patience.


Full report here (pdf).

via Free Kosova

Lost hope, lost families: Suicide rates in Kosovo spiking

I've noticed it in newspaper articles regularly, I haven't stopped to think that much about it.  I've seen crime scene photos of the dead, without knowing much about the issue.  The suicide rate in Kosovo is climbing.  So far this year more than 30 people have committed suicide, more than twice that have attempted to take their own lives.

Blamed on failing family cohesion, post-traumatic stress and growing hopelessness about Kosova's future, young people are increasingly vulnerable to a pernicious hopelessness that is ending in a noose, a drug overdose or a pistol shot.  According to a recent BIRN article, things are only going to get worse.

Eight years after the war, Kosovo is stuck in the economic doldrums. The World Bank’s Poverty Assessment classifies 37 per cent of the population as “poor”, meaning they live on less than 1.42 euros per day. Fifteen per cent of the population live below the extreme poverty line of 0.93 euros per day.
Many believe that these alarming statistics - coupled with the fact that Kosovo has the youngest population in Europe, with 50 per cent of the population under 30, few of whom have much perspective of getting a job – are creating conditions for further trauma.

This is so sad because traditional families ties are failing; young people especially are living with greater and greater anomie.  In Kosovo today many are looking for an antidote.  Some are looking to their traditional faith.  Some are looking towards business.  Some are looking towards political liberation.

All will be disappointed.  People will continue to take their own lives as hoped for solutions disappoint. 

There is only One antidote.  How many will find It?  How many will share It?  These are the two questions that concern me most about Kosovo's future.


Read more on BIRN .

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The end of Council, returning home

I'm sitting in the Orlando airport waiting for my flight.  Thanks for the free wifi MCO, something my nice hotel wouldn't do.

Some of my friends think I'm hopelessly optimistic, but I continue to be encouraged about where we are going as the Christian & Missionary Alliance.  I'm not thrilled with where we are, but I'm encouraged by the things I've heard this week and the signs I've seen that things are changing.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Next Steps: Passports anyone?

 As I traveled around talking about Kosovo this year one of the things I frequently mentioned is the functional lack of passports for the residents of Kosovo.  Stuck in legal limbo, most people either have no passport, a United Nations passport or a Yugoslav passport.

The first options makes it impossible to leave this Connecticut-sized country, the second gives you limited access to countries who will accept you (not a long list).  The third, ironically enough, gives you the greatest access to foreign countries through a passport for a country that hasn't existed in ten years.  Yes, this is the Balkans.

At any rate, Veton Surroi, member of the Kosovo negotiating team, has announced plans for new Kosovar passports which will assumedly be implemented following the assumed independence of Kosovo.


via  BIRN

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bill Clinton being honored with a statue

 You've gotta follow the link and see the pictures; sorry I can't embed them here.  Words cannot express....

Day Three of Council

President's Report

Dr. Benedict, our organizational president, gave his report to the general council today.  He brought us a reasonably concise picture of the good news and bad news that we face as an organization.  Everyone needs honest self-assessment and this was healthy conversation.

More significantly was a a discussion about coaching.  Dr. Benedict told the story of how funding became available for 16 denomination leaders, including Dr. Benedict himself, to go through extensive ministry (I'd say executive) coaching.  Dr. B is a former college president, successful businessman and former pastor.  And so he talked about his own experience in the process.

Then he brought his coach up on stage and opened up the whole process before the gathered group of 3,000 Alliance leaders.  His coach interviewed him, sharing how Dr. B and his coach articulated 7 areas in his life that need attention if he was going to be more effective in his role.

I was frankly shocked that he would have the courage and transparency to do this.  How many "corporate presidents' have you heard stand before their "shareholders" and explain the coaching that they are getting and encouraging others to follow suit.?  Cool stuff.

Ministry Roundtable

We also heard good news and bad news from John Soper, the vice-president of national church ministries.  Some of the good news is that the Christian & Missionary Alliance is the most ethnically diverse denomination in the Untied States.  The bad news is that we one behind the curve in both developing ethnic leaders AND in providing places of ministry for those already in leadership. Soper said this with tears.

From International ministries we head great news about progress being made around the world. We heard about plans being laid to set up short-term receiving centers around the world. Here's the problem: we have a maximum capacity to host 2,000 short-termers on our fields. Yet last year 10,000 CMA people went oversea for short -term experiences. Obviously that means that 8,000 went out with other organizations. Those people develop affiliations and relationships with organizations other than our own.

We also had the privilege of hearing from the leadership of the CMA church in Vietnam.  When our missionaries left there in 1975 there were 100,000 believers. Today there are over 1,000,000, this despite 25 years of difficulty.  So we heard from the first CMA delegation from Vietnam since 1975.  Awesome.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Day Two of Council

I spent the bulk of my day in committee meetings today.  Many people I know take a dim view of these types of meetings.  I confess I'm a little bit of a dork, but I actually enjoy them.  I enjoy seeing the hood of the organization opened and its inner workings exposed for observation.  All organizations are rough approximations.  That is, there are inefficiencies in every organization: inefficiencies and frictions in relationships, creative (and harmful) tensions between people and departments.  But that's life.  All organizations are rough approximations of True Community.

I think we do a pretty good job at what we do.  Are we perfect?  Not by a long shot.  But I get discouraged at some in my own generation that eschew involvement in "tinkering under the hood" because they somehow feel it is artificial or unworthy of their attention.

The first evening of Council was a winner too. I entered the darkened auditorium and found my seat in crowded bleachers.

Excuse the poor camera phone pic.  John Stumbo spoke about the cost of ministry...a cost that seems to be getting higher.   The cost of ministry is high...and often it hurts.   Quoting a Christian researcher, he said that 80% of spouses wish that their mate was in different field.   That's pretty striking.   He talked about the sheer madness of what we do.  It's crazy, and it's crazy not to think it's crazy.

And yet he said too that what we do matters.  It matters a lot that lives are being changed by the power of the Gospel.  Another speaker told the story of a young man that we'll call Bill.  Bill was invited to a Bible study to which he came for a while.  He then dropped off the face of the earth for a long time.  Eventually he came back and told his story.  When he first attended the Bible study he had been a devout follower of his traditional religion.  But the more he tried to please his god, the further away from him he felt.  He finally came to the conclusion that the only way to gain the approval of his god was to join the ranks of the suicide bombers.  So he went and trained for that assignment and was sent to a target.  His initial target was closed to him and so he found a school yard full of children, believing it be the place where he would end is life in a holocaust of destruction, taking with him the lives of tens of young school children.

 But then one of those children stopped and greeted him.   And the true God sent him the blinding realization that it cannot be honoring, it cannot be fruitful, it cannot be good, to take the lives of the innocents.  Today that young man is a Christ-follower...someone who has now been changed by the power of the Gospel.

What we do matters.  Whether we're working in the US or overseas, it matters a great deal.

And so we closed the evening with a fantastic worship set:

"Jesus bold me close, closer Lord to you... let the earth around me fade away. . ."

"there is none like one else can touch my heart like you do."

Monday, May 21, 2007

Day One of Council: Monday Pre-Council

I work with a wonderful organization called the Christian & Missionary Alliance.  Every two years, a "Council" meeting is called where the pastors, church delegates, missionaries and organizational leaders all descend on a city for what is a combination business meeting and family reunion.  While doing the "business" is obviously a fair amount of work, I so enjoy seeing old friends and meeting new ones too.

While I used to attend Council every year (it used to be annual), we've now been in Kosovo for the last four years and I've missed this enormous "family gathering."  Last night (Sunday) Melissa and I attended the "missionary banquet," sitting with a 497 people who are spending, or have spent, considerable portions of their lives overseas.

After the meal there was a time of honoring all those missionaries  retiring this year.  I was struck by the quality of people I saw walk before us.  As bio after bio was read, I was awed by their faithful resolution to live out the call of God on their lives.  My respect is so much deeper than in years before as I am now much more aware of the sacrifice required.  Having spent only four years on the mission field I have some deeper awareness of what a forty year commitment might look like.  Two of the retirees had just concluded a 42-year career in Israel.  I can only imagine the things they've experienced in that land that has seen so much war.

Another couple just retired from their career in Japan.  The woman had grown up as a missionary kid in the Philippines.  Her family had been captured during WWII and put in a Japanese prison camp during those years.  As an adult, she returned to the nation of her captors, spending her career loving the people of Japan.  That is the difference the Gospel makes in the life of a person.

The bulk of today was spent in meetings.  Several hours of the day were devoted to the topic of a "Makeover."  Most organizations today are grappling with the changing North American culture and the CMA is no different.  We're wrestling with how to positively respond to a number cultural developments.   The great thing is that all of these developments have tremendous upsides and the potential to positively influence the Kingdom of God and missionary work.

Tonight I'm off to my first committee meeting.  I'm looking forward to learning a lot from some very bright people. 

That's it from Orlando for day one.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Status Update: Text before the UN Security Council

We now have the draft text that was delivered to the UNSC by the US and European Union.  It was printed today at the EUObserver.  There isn't anything very surprising here; the bulk of the content actually points back to the original document we talked about here

Monday, May 14, 2007

In the News: Kosovo, Albania and Jihad

I've never read the "American Thinker" before but I resonated with Ray Robinson's article yesterday on "Kosovo, Albania and Jihad."  Robinson deployed to Kosovo in 2000 with the US military.  His story, which he wrote in response to the Ft Dix Six, gives some good, non-missionary insight into the Kosovar attitude toward Americans.  It's a good read.

Friday, May 11, 2007

West Introducing Kosovo Plan at UN Today

According to France24, "US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad...told reporters that the text 'will be circulated this afternoon.'"  No surprises in the article, this was exepcted any time now.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ft Dix Four: Not from Kosovo, but Macedonia

 The International Herald Tribune is reporting, today, that three of the Albanians involved in the plot to assault Ft. Dix in New Jersey are not from Kosovo, but from Macedonia.  The story says they are from the city of Debar, in western Macedonia. 

Experts on Albania and the Albanian-American community said they were surprised at the ethnicity of the suspects.

Fred Abrahams of Human Rights Watch said, "Albanians on the whole are so very over-the-top pro-American that this news came as a shock."

The 1999 American-led bombing of Serbia resulted in de facto independence for Kosovo, a majority Albanian province in Serbia that had been the scene of brutal repression by the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. One of the main thoroughfares in Pristina, Kosovo's capital, was renamed "Bill Clinton Boulevard."

In Macedonia, Argitim Fida, mayor of the Dukas' home village, said that on Sept. 11, 2001, students had a candlelight vigil in the town's main square. The town council in Debar, which has a population of about 15,000, set a special meeting for Thursday to discuss how to respond to the arrests.

"If Albanians are traditionally pro-American, we in Debar have to be more pro-American than anyone," Mayor Fida said. "Almost every family here has relatives living in the United States."

I'm not trying to be an apologist for these men, but the Western media has a tendency to damn all Muslims, regardless of any other factors.  Many in the American "Christian" media are perpetuating the myth that an independent Kosovo would become a fundamentalist Islamist state.  They are using this event to give credence to that agenda.

I'm looking forward to continuing to learning more about this situation, and trying to explain it here.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Black Fog of Shame: Kosova reacts to Ft. Dix plotters

Today a number of news articles, political statements and editorials began appearing in the Kosovar press.  Prime Minister Agim Çeku roundly condemned that plotters saying  it is difficult to believe that any Albanian would take part in a terrorist act against the United States.  In other accounts he is offering the full cooperation of the Kosovar government in the investigation.  Other political party leaders had similar things to say.

RTK, the Radio & Television of Kosova, lead with the headline, "Kosova shocked with news that terrorists with Albanian ancestry aimed an attack against America."  The Islamic Association (of Kosova)  said that, "to attack America would be to attack the state that promotes democratic values.  The president of the Islamic Association added that, "In principle, we condemn every act of terrorism, independently of who planned it or whether it was complete, regardless of purpose or motive..."

The news daily, the Iliria Post, led with a front-page editorial calling the plotters "without religion and without a nation."  The same edition of Iliria Post had a long article with quotes from a number of national figures, all condemning the attacks.  The title of the article: The Black Fog of Shame. 

Direct NY-Prishtina flights beginning in June

We really should have our tickets to return to Kosovo by now, but for some medical reasons are a little delayed.  Maybe that's for the better now that Adriatic Eagle Air and Kosova Airlines have signed an agreement to begin direct flights from New York to Prishtina, beginning June 12th.

The best part?  It's only an eight hour flight.  Okay, the flight part is long enough, but I would love NOT to wait around in London or Vienna for our connections

I wish this new effort all the best, though I would be surprised if there is enough traffic to warrant direct flights.

via ECIKS - News and analysis about Kosovo Economy in English

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Albanians involved in Ft. Dix assault plan

Not very good news out of NJ today.  Six men were arrested and charged with planning to enter Ft Dix, a US Army base,  and kill as many soldiers as possible.  Why am I mentioning it here?  Four of the six are ethnic Albanians from "former Yugoslavia".  According to the NJ Star Ledger, one of them had experience as a sniper in Kosovo.  

This is obviously very disturbing.  Ft. Dix was used as a major refugee reception area during the war in Kosovo.  Thousands of Kosovar refugees transited through Dix during the conflict in Kosovo.  The symbolism of attacking Dix is terrible, though it was apparently chosen because one of the suspects was familiar with the base from delivering pizzas.

Having said all that, Albanians live all over former Yugoslavia and it's interesting that none of the media outlets are reporting whether these men are Kosovar or not.  According to reports, they are:

NAME: Dritan Duka.
AGE: 28; Born in the former Yugoslavia. Ethnic Albanian.
HOME: Cherry Hill, N.J.
IMMIGRATION STATUS: In United States illegally.
OCCUPATION: Operates Colonial Roofing and National Roofing, which list business address at the home of his brothers, Eljvir and Shain Duka.

NAME: Shain Duka.
AGE: 26; Born January 1981 in the former Yugoslavia. Ethnic Albanian.
LIVES: Cherry Hill, N.J.
IMMIGRATION STATUS: In United States illegally.
OCCUPATION: Operates roofing businesses with his brothers.

NAME: Eljvir Duka.
ALIASES: Elvis Duka, Sulayman.
AGE: 23; Born in the former Yugoslavia. Ethnic Albanian.
LIVES: Cherry Hill, N.J.
IMMIGRATION STATUS: In United States illegally.
OCCUPATION: Operates roofing businesses with his brothers.

NAME: Agron Abdullahu.
AGE: 24; Born September 1982 in the former Yugoslavia. Ethnic Albanian.
LIVES: Buena Vista Township, N.J.
IMMIGRATION STATUS: Legal U.S. resident.
OCCUPATION: Works at a Shop-Rite supermarket.

I'm sure the vast majority of Kosovars are condemning this: judge the actions, not the ethnicity.  At this point, the Albanian press outlets have reported on this but the Kosovar ones I've checked (here, here and here) have not.  All in all, it's not a super day for Albanian-American relations.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Exchange rate woes

The exchange rate between the US dollar and the Euro is at an almost all time low.  Our official field rate for this month is 1.364.  That is, 1 euro is worth $1.364.

In other words, a liter of milk in Kosovo (at least when we left) was 70 euro cents.  For simplicity sake, let's say a quart and a liter are the same thing (technically 1 quart is .946 liters).  That means a gallon of milk costs 2.80 euros.  That doesn't sound like a big deal.  Milk in our area goes for as much as $3.50.  But wait until you convert the currency.

On euro is equal to $1.36.  That means a gallon of milk in Kosovo really costs $3.82.  That's about 50 cents more a gallon than when we left last summer.

This exchange is really putting a cramp on ministry spending as well.  Everything costs more in US dollars as the dollar continues to slide against the euro.  Think about it this way.  Say that a donor gave $1000 for a ministry project in Kosovo.  That $1000 gift would only amount 735 Euro.  That's right...we lose almost twenty-five percent of all donations just because the dollar is so low against the euro.

Now, obviously God owns all the cattle, but this is beginning to really hurt from the viewpoint of this particular sheep.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Interesting news weekend

I saw some interesting headlines today that I thought I would pass on.  Normally the weekends are kind of dull...these three articles are anything but.

Kosovo will become independent, says US

BRUSSELS • Kosovo will be independent with or without a United Nations resolution, and Russia should back an agreement to protect the Kosovo Serb minority, the United States said yesterday.

Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried said it was possible the latest Russian criticism of UN mediator Marti Ahtisaari's plan for the final status of the breakaway Serbian province meant Moscow intended to block a resolution.

"We hope that Russia understands that Kosovo is going to be independent one way or another," Fried said in an interview at a Brussels Forum on transatlantic relations.

We don't often see this level of "frankness" from US State Department officials. 


US may unilaterally recognise Kosovo independence

BRUSSELS. The United States could unilaterally recognise Kosovo's independence even if Russia vetoes such a move at the United Nations, a former US envoy to the Balkans and the UN said Saturday.
"If Russia decides to use its veto (in the UN Security Council), there will be a declaration of independence in Kosovo, and the United States will recognise Kosovo the same day," Richard Holbrook predicted during a conference in Brussels.

This is contrary to what Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Çeku said yesterday.  Of course, Richard Holbrook isn't really employed by the US Gov't anymore, but he certainly knows his way around.

“Tsar Lazar Guard” rounds up Kosovo volunteers

BELGRADE -- The so-called St.Tsar Lazar Guard is gathering volunteers ready to wage a war in case Kosovo becomes independent.
According to Belgrade daily Danas, an organization known as the National Serbian Movement will host a Serbian Assembly in the Lazarica Church in Kruševac on May 5, where it plans to swear in “the Saint Tsar Lazar Guard vowed to free Kosovo and Metohija.”

This would obviously be bad for everyone.  The article goes on to say that 5,000 "eager volunteers"  are already sworn in.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Kosovo won't take unilateral action

Contrary to what I've been predicting here, Kosovo Prime Minister, Agim Çeku, says that Kosovo won't declare independence unilaterally.  According to this story:

“We are not alone in this process and there is no need to take any unilateral decisions because we place trust in the UN”, Ceku remarked, as a reply to the question whether it was possible for Pristina to unilaterally announce Kosovo’s independence.

Çeku doesn't believe that Russia will veto a Security Council resolution, since it would cast into doubt Russia's own reliability as an international negotiating partner.  Russia has been a part of the Contact Group which has guided the whole process until now.


via Free Kosova

A couple reflections from a proud dad

As a dad I have plenty of those warm-fuzzy moments watching my kids.  They do things that make me so proud...usually when they are least aware of it.

I have lunch with my second grader every Wednesday at her school.  It's fun to go to the lunch room and eat with Madison and her friends.  I've met a lot of little kids and their parents this way.  Last week we were munching away on our chips and pizza when one little friend made a comment about a guest the had in their class.  He was a Native American.

They had apparently flown this gentleman in from Arizona to talk to the school about Navaho life-style and traditions.  Around the lunch table, with the eternally-unchanged school milk cartons scattered about, one little girl chirped, "He made me nervous...I didn't care for him much." 

"Why?" I asked.

"I don't know...he was just different from me" was the reply.

I asked my daughter if the man made her nervous.  "Naw.  I thought he was neat" was her reply; I didn't much about it.

This evening we were at a PTA function...a family cook-out and 2nd grade concert.  We went and ate too-expensive pizza from red Papa Johns plates while the kids ate a little and played a lot.  For a moment I lost track of our preschooler, Reilly.  She'd wandered down behind a gentle slope with a group of other little kids. 

After a moment I went after her to see what she was doing.  When I caught up to her she was playing a pre-school version of "hide and seek."  Each of the little band was taking turns hiding one of their toys in plain sight.  Then they'd all run over to a tree, count to five or six together and then run and find what was hidden.

What struck me first was the language Reilly was counting in: Spanish.  Spanish??  Yup, there is my little Albanian missionary kid counting in Spanish, playing with kids she'd never met.  The second thing that struck me was the kids she was playing with.  She wasn't playing with the crowds of well-dressed, golf-shirt and loafer-clad suburban kids.  She was playing with the Hispanic kids.  Cool.

It's hard to express what I think and feel about how my kids are growing up.  People that others find odd, my kids think are normal.  My kids aren't frightened by minorities or those different from them, they are attracted to them.

I don't know whether this is a result of spending time overseas or what.  I just know that I'm proud of my kids.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Russia threatens veto at the UNSC

 Yesterday Russia's deputy prime minister explicitly threatened to veto the Ahtisaari plan for limited independence for Kosovo.  Thus far the Russians have been fairly silent on the Big-V; they haven't threatened to use their Security Council veto.

My guess is that US-Russian negotiations on the proposed US missile shield are not going well and that the Russians are upping the ante a little bit.  According to the EUObserver,

"A decision based on Martti Ahtisaari's draft will not get through the UN security council," Russia's deputy prime minister Vladimir Titov confirmed on Tuesday (24 April), Russian newswires Interfax and Ria Novosti report.

"The threat of a veto should stimulate the search for mutually acceptable options," he added, following months of hint-dropping by Russian diplomats that they would use the ultimate UN sanction.

There hasn't been much linkage between these two issues in the media, but I do not doubt that the missile shield and Russia's acquiescence to the Ahtisaari plan are closely linked (this article almost links them).  Make no mistake, while the Russians are often touted as the Serb's big-brother, the Russians are for the Russians.  They will happily trade off any of the Balkan states to advance their own foreign policy objectives. 

Of course, the Russians aren't the only ones to use the Balkan states for their own ends; all the world powers have done this.  That's why in the Albanian mental DNA there are only two categories of foreigner: the Eastern ones who have invaded and occupied them, and the Western ones who have betrayed them.  Thus far the US has remained a curious third category. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

US State Dept Speech: The Outlook for the Independence of Kosovo

 R. Nicholas Burns, US Under Secretary of Political Affairs spoke before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs today.

You can watch the video here or read a transcript here.  Basically, Burns states a very strong US position for an independent Kosovo. 

We are working closely with NATO and the European Union, whose members agree with us that independence for Kosovo is the only viable outcome. The United States, NATO, and the EU have invested enormous political, economic and military resources in Kosovo and the region -- we have the most significant equities at stake and therefore are most committed to seeing this process through.

The UN Security Council has already begun discussing President Ahtisaari's recommendations. In the coming weeks, the U.S. will sponsor a new Security Council resolution to replace resolution 1244, which established the current regime of international administration over Kosovo. This resolution will not actually confer independence on Kosovo. Rather, it will remove political and legal impediments to independence, as well as provide mandates for Kosovo’s post-status international supervision under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. We expect that Kosovo’s leaders will subsequently declare their independence. The U.S. and other countries will then recognize the new state. Our goal is to bring the Kosovo status process to a timely and successful conclusion by the end of this spring. We believe that the Security Council will recognize that President Ahtisaari's proposals represent the best chance to achieve a sustainable solution [emphasis added].

It seems like we really are coming down the wire.  Note specifically that the US will introduce a new UNSC resolution.

US Senate bill supporting independence for Kosovo

I saw this in a news article last week, but had difficulty navigating the US Senate's website.  I found the bill here and it makes for interesting reading.

The bill was referred to the Committed on Foreign Relations where, I imagine, it will languish.  I'm mostly posting this as a bookmark for the bill, in case it ever sees the light of day. 

Monday, April 16, 2007

Easter Service Report

On almost every Easter since the war, the evangelical churches of Kosovo have jointly sponsored an Easter Service in the capital city of Prishtina.  This Easter, 2007, was perhaps the largest gathering ever.  Below is a great report, written by the national evangelical church organization.  I've deleted the names of some of those involved.  I haven't personally recieved permission from them to publish their names whereas others, whose names are below, are public figures.

God continues to do great things in Kosovo!  I was told that a whole bus came up from Gjilan.

On 8th April there was an Easter Service at the National Theater in Prishtina. The service began at 1pm and this year the participation was bigger than previous years with many churches from other cities joining together to celebrate Easter. There were approximately 750 people.

The Service was organized by the Kosova Protestant Evangelical Church. We felt God's presence throughout the preparation time and His provision for the different needs for this service.
It was a blessed time and everyone went home with a powerful message in their hearts.

[name deleted] led the worship and meeting time. [name deleted] from Gjakova shared with us his testimony and Artur Krasniqi preached. As well as the Christians, we were glad to see many visitors and guests who joined the celebration. The children had a special meeting at Fellowship of the Lord’s People church and we give thanks for the wonderful care of the children's workers/helpers who did a 'precious' job with them.

After the service we shared a cocktail in front of the National Theatre. We believe that this time of friendship between brothers and sisters in Christ was a good witness for the people around who could sense our joy for the Easter celebration.

The entire service was recorded and at the end of service a photo with all the participants was taken. Whoever is interested in a DVD or Photo can contact us at the KPEC office for copies.

The Easter service didn’t finish because the next day we held a soccer tournament between all the churches in Kosova. 16 teams from different churches participated in the tournament. The new church “Maranatha” won the Easter cup. Congratulations to them.

On Monday, RTK showed a documentary about our community mentioning that the leaders of Kosova did not send their wishes to the Protestant Church for Easter. Pastor Artur Krasniqi gave a short interview regarding this matter.

We want to thank SHPK [local police] for their good work for providing security for us. We also want to thank in the name of our Lord all the brothers and sisters in Christ that made it possible for the service of the Resurrection to be a blessing and a joy for all that were present.

We also want to mention our financial blessings. Thank you to all the churches who gave donations and especially Beselidhja Micro Finance Organization which blessed our service with a considerable amount.

We believe through our Lord that next Easter will serve more people who will come to know the Lord, so that His act on the cross will not be in vain.
All the blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Zyra e KPUK-ut
KPEC Office
Kisha Protestante Ungjillore e Kosoves
Kosova Protestant Evangelical Church
+381 38 225 330

Legal & Prayer Update: Unjust (and unwise) law in Kosovo

Since the end of the war in Kosovo in 1999 dozens of organizations have brought millions of dollars worth of food, clothes, equipment and other humanitarian supplies into Kosovo.  That is all changing.  Now the government has begun to treat NGOs (non-governmental organizations) like regular for-profit businesses with respect to bringing material into Kosovo, including things that will be given away for free, like Samaritans Purse Shoe boxes.

Today I received an update on this issue which sums everything up quite nicely.  It was addressed to the missionary organizations operating within Kosovo:

You have been sent several emails regarding the VAT issue over the past year or so.  Maybe you are unaware of the ramifications of this Law and what our friends John Chesnut, Artur Krasniqi, & Sharon Burton (along with others) are fighting for.    

I’ll try to sum it up in a nutshell.  Some of you are (or were) registered NGO’s and had Public Benefit Status (PBS).  Among other things, this meant that the NGO could bring humanitarian aid and other items into Kosova without paying VAT (through a rebate system).   Unfortunately that changed last year and now all NGO’s (including you) must pay 26.5% (customs & excise & VAT)  on aid/vehicles/equipment etc that you wish to bring into Kosova.  Obviously NGO’s – especially small organizations like us cannot afford to do that.   

Think about the future – would you or your organization want to be able to bring type of equipment or aid to enable a project or to help your ministry – not just NOW but in 10 years? 

This is what this group is fighting for –

  • to stop a system that dictates all NGO’s must pay for aid & equipment which is coming to help the people of Kosova
  • to fight for a ‘fair’ administrative system that will allow NGO’s to continue their work effectively and not be penalized by paying unfair taxes
  • to fight for a ‘fair’ Law that encourages NGO’s to not seek for the ‘back door’ approach to bringing aid into Kosova.

If this affects you, don’t wonder what you can do, join the group and help fight for a better Law and a better system. 


We are not ‘too small’ to make a difference.

As I understand it, this law will effect all kinds of materials being brought into Kosovo. If this continues we will not be able to afford to pay the taxes on things we are giving away for free.

  If this continues we won't be able to participate in events like Sams Purse shoe box distributions like this one and pictures like the one above will be a thing of the past.

The government's position is that Kosovo has moved from a country in need of "relief" to a country in need of "development" and that, therefore, NGOs shouldn't be bringing in great quantities of humanitarian supplies.  As the poorest place in central Europe, however, most of its residents would probably disagree.

Please be in prayer about this issue as it will have a significant impact, not only on Christian organizations, but on NGOs of all types.  In the title I said this was unwise on the part of the government, and it is. 

The government will not generate more revenue from aid imports into Kosovo.  Aid will simply stop, harming the people the government is charged with protecting.

Please pray that the government would act wisely and justly in this regard.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Early reaction: only 4 UNSC countries for independence

The Tiraspol Times is reporting today that, in a initial vote taken on Tuesday, only four of the fifteen countries on the UNSC have lined up to support an independent Kosovo.

While the article doesn't mention which ones, it does mention the growing interest of the US Senate:

Meanwhile, in the US Senate, a bi-partisan draft resolution submitted by Joseph Lieberman, Joseph Biden and John McCain will urge president George W. Bush to step up the heat in the United Nations, increasing US pressure in the UN Security Council to have Kosovo declared an independent state.

The UNSC is only in the beginning stages of formal discussion, but it's not exactly an auspicious beginning.  The fall-back position, of course, is for Kosovo to declare independence unilaterally and hope that friendly countries will recognize the new state.

Such a move would make Kosovo a member of a small club of countries around the world which exists as de facto independent countries but which have limited international recognition and are not members of the United Nations. Taiwan is the best-known example of such countries, but the group also includes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Somaliland, Abkhazia, Transdniester (Pridnestrovie) and Western Sahara, among others.

It has been my contention all along that the plan currently before the UNSC was merely an official stalking horse for a unilateral independence bid.  News earlier this week indicate that Kosovo's immediate neighbors would recognize and independent Kosovo regardless of UNSC action.  Many of the EU countries would follow suit, but by no means all.

There is no easy way out of this mess.  There are other countries with similar, though not equal, claims for independence.  The UN is treading on dangerous territory by being a part of a forced solution in Kosovo.  We'll have to watch as this drama unfolds and see what happens.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Home at last

After a speaking tour that included speaking about Kosovo 95 times in 27 churches I'm home at last.  Yesterday I got home from a great, though short trip to San Jose, CA where I had the privilege of speaking to one of our ethnic Chinese churches.  What a great group of people!! 

Now I'm off for some vacation at the beach with the family.  Whew.

Friday, March 30, 2007

In the news: EU support for UN Kosovo plan

There has been a lot in the news lately about developments in Kosovo.  Yesterday the European Parliament announced its support for the UN plan for Kosovo; you can read more here.

The EU is also planning for a "massive presence" in Kosovo in the coming months.  The EU will send 2000 personnel to Kosovo in the comings months and is looking for grants in the area of 1.5 billion euro to be given.  Read more here.

Russia has been in the news lately too, claming that the UN plan will fail.  But as far as I can tell that haven't yet threatened to veto the plan at the security council.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Proposal before the Security Council

Yesterday, March 26th, UN Secretary General Ban Kai Moon presented Martti Ahtisaari's proposal on Kosovo to the Security Council.  He said:

Having taken into account the developments in the process designed to determine Kosovo’s future status, I fully support both the recommendation made by my Special Envoy in his report on Kosovo’s future status and the Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement.

Ahtisaari's official report to the UNSC leads with this:

"Recommendation: Kosovo’s status should be independence, supervised by the international community"

As far as I know, this is the first time the "I-word" (independence) has been used by a high-ranking UN official in an official documents.  The report later outlines why, "Independence with international supervision is the only viable option."

Check out Ban Kai Moon's submission and Ahtisaari's document here (PDF).

via South East Europe Online

Thursday, March 22, 2007

UN Envoy calls for Kosovo's Independence

The tension is mounting as the UN as chief negotiator Martti Ahtisaari now explicitly recommends independence for Kosovo.  He said:

The time has come to resolve Kosovo's status...Independence is the only option for a politically stable and economically viable Kosovo.

The Washington Post has more here.

What can go wrong?

The United States Institute for Peace, an organization established and funded by Congress, has posted an interesting article called, "Kosovo: What Can Go Wrong." It's a good look  at the status of Kosovo and the issues and parties that may make or break the "next status" of my adopted home.


via FreeKosova

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

No more breathing, er smoking, allowed

In a startling move from the Kosovo  Parliament, smoking has been banned in public places.  Actually, the parliament passed this law a year and half ago, but the UN has still not signed off on it, signing it into power.

The beauty of living in Prishtina is that you can smoke everywhere,” said Luli, 24, while having a drink in Toto bar, last Tuesday.

But Lena, a girl seated next to him, said she will be happy if one day she could enter a bar without being choked from the smoke.

“I love to go out and have drinks with friends but when I go back home, my clothes and hair stink,” she said. Lena was one of the very few people inside the Toto bar who was not smoking.

When I returned from the US I actually had second-hand smoke withdrawal.  I was tempted to light three or four cigarettes around my living room just so I felt at home!

I cannot imagine in Kosovo without cigarette smoking.  Oh, I wouldn't object, but it would sure be strange.

Read more here.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Hooray for your pedigree...what about your vision?

It's been so wonderful on so many levels to travel through the churches of the Christian & Missionary Alliance.  I've met so many people that really make the CMA work...both on the local level, and also on the national and international levels.

I've been so blessed by many godly people who don't even recognize the depth of their own spirituality; I could spend hours listening to these saints as they unintentionally teach me about the inner workings of the Holy Spirit in their own lives.

I've met others who talk about their personal pedigrees.  They can go on at length about how long they've been in the CMA, how many missionary/pastor relatives they have.  Often times this is fun since I've met their kin and we can share in the tapestry that is our Alliance family.  Other times its troubling.

Recently, while speaking to a group, I mentioned that I didn't grow up in the CMA, but found it while in high school.  During the dinner which followed a woman sat down across from me and said, fairly declaratively, "You said you didn't grow up in the CMA...I was born and raised in it."  And then the pedigree started.

After a few moments I said, "That's great!  Have you ever been on a missions trip anywhere?"  Her face went blank.

"Ah... no, I haven't," she responded, beginning to look elsewhere. 

"Oh, come on now," I said with a smile on my face.  The disconnect between the pedigree recitation and personal experience obvious.

"Well, you know, there are those fears I have."

"Yes, I know...I have them too," I replied. 

A moment later the conversation turned a corner as one her children approached and I went on to chat with the other people around us. 

I hear a lot of pedigrees from people, how they share in the lineage of the CMA.  That's nice.  What I want to hear is not about their pedigree, but about their passion, how they share in the vision of the CMA.  Tell me about your walk with God!  Let me sit at your feet and learn from you!  Let the fire of my own heart grow as I hear your story, your longing for the Kingdom of God and the coming of Jesus. 

I praise God for the great physical and spiritual lineages many of us share.  I praise God for how he has used multiple generations of families within the CMA to accomplish his purposes.  Yet I praise God even more for those kindred spirits I find along the journey, those who are impassioned, not by their pedigrees but by the quiet, yet powerful work of the Spirit in their lives.